A rare public face-off between conservative and liberal Episcopalians on the grounds of an evangelical Episcopal seminary grudgingly earned respect from the liberal camp, yet rattled seminarians who questioned whether the seminary should “dialogue with the darkness.”

At issue are widely divergent world views that have caused division within the 2.4 million-member Episcopal Church. While one wing of the denomination leans toward the extreme theological and political Left, Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, has been a bastion of biblical orthodoxy. Founded in 1976 by a group of Episcopal evangelicals, including evangelist John Guest, it has become the denomination’s training ground for evangelical leaders.

That is why Trinity faculty and the dean, former Colorado Bishop William Frey, were amazed when the school was approached last spring with an unusual request. The Witness, the 4,200-circulation monthly voice of the Episcopal Left, wanted Trinity as the site for the magazine’s seventy-fifth anniversary celebration to challenge the views of its readers.

“The intent is not to reconcile our communities,” said editor Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann. “It is not to reach consensus. It is not to convert. All we can hope for is that adversaries within the church can meet.… It is possible that we share neither a Lord nor a faith, only a baptism that is laden with irony.”

Facing The Opposition

The request was discussed among Trinity faculty, staff, and students, some of whom expressed reservations about allowing Witness on campus. They feared the school’s supporters would not back the conference. But Frey and most of the faculty believed otherwise.

“If students only have the opportunity to articulate the faith in a ...

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